DHHR Investigating Hepatitis A Cases Linked to National Outbreak
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health is working closely with local health departments in Berkeley and Jefferson counties to investigate reports of illnesses linked to a national outbreak of hepatitis A. Nationally, more than fifty people have been impacted by the outbreak associated with Egypt-sourced frozen strawberries used by restaurants in a variety of smoothies.
“The Bureau for Public Health has received reports of seven cases of hepatitis A that we are currently investigating in Berkeley and Jefferson counties,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health. “Three of these cases of hepatitis A have been directly linked to the outbreak.”
While there is no information to suggest there is an ongoing risk of hepatitis A virus from the strawberries used in the smoothies, there can be transmission from person to person with contacts of the reported cases.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus and it is highly contagious. It is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A does not result in chronic infection.
“Not everyone will experience symptoms from a hepatitis A virus infection,” Gupta added. “Some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms. Other symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection include yellow eyes or skin, abdominal pain, pale stools or dark urine. Fortunately, a vaccine to prevent against hepatitis A is available.”
In general, it is recommended that the following groups of people receive the hepatitis A vaccine:
• all children at age one
• travelers to countries that have high rates of hepatitis A
• family members and caregivers of recent adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common
• men who have sexual contact with other men
• users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs
• people with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C
• people who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates
• people who work with hepatitis A infected animals or in a Hepatitis A research laboratory
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration are leading the outbreak investigation nationally. Persons who feel that they may have become ill as a result of this outbreak should contact their health care provider.
Media contact: DHHRCommunications@wv.gov or (304) 558-7899